american film institute

Movie Monday: To Hell and Back 1955

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To Hell and Back Image One
Image Credit: IMDB & Amazon

Sixty-five years ago, today, the war film To Hell and Back was released, originally in San Antonio. Directed by Jesse Hibbs and based on the book of the same name, it starred Audie Murphy, Marshall Thompson, Charles Drake, Jack Kelly, Gregg Palmer, Paul Picerni, David Janssen, Denver Pyle, Brett Halsey (Admiral’s great-nephew) and Gordon Gebert as a young Audie.

IMDB Summary:

Biopic of the wartime exploits of Audie Murphy (played by himself), the most decorated US soldier in World War II. Starting with his boyhood in Texas, where he became the head of his family at a young age, the story follows his enrollment in [the] Army where he was assigned to the 3rd Division. He fought in North Africa, Sicily and Italy, before landing in southern France and, eventually, fighting in Germany. A Medal of Honor recipient, he also received battle honors from the French and Belgian government.

Rotten Tomatoes Summary:

The highly variable Audie Murphy delivers his best screen performance as “himself” in Universal‘s To Hell and Back. Based on the star’s autobiography, this is the story of how Murphy became America’s most-decorated soldier during WW II. After dwelling a bit on Murphy’s hard-scrabble Texas upbringing, the story moves ahead to 1942, when, as a teenager, Audie joined the army. Within a year, he was a member of the 7th Army, serving in North Africa, Italy, France and, ultimately, Germany and Austria. One by one, the members of Murphy’s Company B are killed in the war, until only three men from the original company are left. [The] others appear at the finale as ghostly images […]. The bulk of the film is given over to Murphy’s conspicuous acts of combat bravery and his killing of 240 enemy soldiers. Highlighted by excellent battle sequences, To Hell and Back is a serviceable tribute to a most complex individual.

Audie Murphy Image Two
Date: 1948
Photo Author: Fort Detrick
Wikipedia & Wikimedia

Trivia Bits:
Filmed at Fort Lewis, WA, Yakima River, WA, Oak Creek Wildlife Area, WA and Universal Studios.
♦ Audie Murphy originally declined the opportunity to portray himself in the movie, not wanting people to think that he was attempting to cash in on his role as a war hero. Murphy initially suggested his friend Tony Curtis to play him.
♦ Audie Murphy’s war buddy Onclo Airheart was slated to play himself, but he declined due to the fact that the movie was to be shot during planting season.
♦ [Author] David Morell [sic] cites Audie Murphy as the inspiration for the character of John Rambo.
♦ In the movie, […] Murphy does his one-man standoff on top of a medium M-4 Sherman tank. [In] real life it happened on top of an M10 Wolverine tank destroyer.
♦ Audie Murphy’s feats of heroism and his much decorated status have been compared to those of his counterpart during World War I, Sgt. Alvin C. York […].

Murphy […] wrote poetry and songs, and, himself a sufferer, was among the first advocates for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He died on May 28, 1971, when the private airplane in which he was riding crashed.

Additional Reading:
To Hell and Back (American Film Institute)
To Hell and Back (Turner Classic Movies)
Alvin York (Wikipedia)
Audie Murphy (Wikipedia)

Flick Friday: Vigilante Hideout 1950

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Vigilante Hideout Image One
Image Credit: IMDB & Amazon

Technically, today is also a bust for Flick Friday, just like my July 24 post. There were no movie releases, today, in 1950, either, so I will grab the August 6 release. Seventy years ago, yesterday, the western film Vigilante Hideout was released. Directed by Fred C. Bannon and written by Richard Wormser, it starred Allan Lane, Black Jack (Allan Lane’s horse), Eddie Waller, Roy Barcroft and Virginia Herrick.

IMDB Summary:

Rocky (Lane), a Range Detective, arrives to help Nugget (Waller) with rustlers. When he learns Nugget owns only three cows, he stays on, anyway and, soon, becomes involved in Benson’s attempt to blow open the bank’s safe. When Rocky upsets his plans, Benson (Don Haggerty), supposedly, gets rid of him by having him declared an outlaw, wanted dead or alive. Then, Benson takes a load of explosives into an old mine located directly under the bank vault.

Vigilante Hideout Image Two
Image Credit: Wikipedia & Wikimedia

Letterboxd Summary:

Double-barreled justice catches up with a cold-blooded killer when “Rocky” takes up the chase! Cattle detective, Rocky Lane, arrives in town to investigate cattle disappearances only to realize just three cows, owned by eccentric inventor Nugget Clark, are involved. However, the disappearances lead to a deeper mystery involving dynamite explosions, rampaging cowboys and a water shortage.

TV Guide Summary:

Lane and his trusty black stallion are on hand to help old-timer Waller find water for a town which is threatening to fold up due to drought. Some crooked townsfolk don’t want the water to be found because they want to collect on the $25,000 being stashed away for an aqueduct. Lane’s job is to make sure these people don’t pose too much of a problem, while Waller goes about finding the water. The characterization of Waller as a crazed inventor of gadgets is an added attraction to this oater with a realistic bent.

Full Synopsis (Turner Classic Movies)

Additional Reading:
American Film Institute

The Complete Movie

Movie Monday: Cinderella’s Feller 1940

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Cinderella's Feller Image One
Photo Credit: YouTube

Eighty years ago, today, the Technicolor Special (Warner Bros. Series) short family musical Cinderella’s Feller was released. Directed by William C. McGann and produced by Gordon Hollingshead, it starred Juanita Quigley, Scotty Beckett, Maris Wrixon, Virginia Brissac and, Terry as Rex the Dog, the Cairn Terrier best known as Toto in the MGM film The Wizard of Oz.

I can’t find much written about this little short, though it is on YouTube in its entirety. It’s only a little over 19 minutes long. It is not listed on Turner Classic Movies or the American Film Institute but, does show up on the British Film Institute…which I find odd.

The site Letterboxd simply states:

The story of Cinderella with a children’s cast.

Cinderella's Feller Image Two
Photo Credit: IMDB

IMDB is not much longer:

The famous fairy tale is musicalized and given a modern 1940s spin with the principal characters (Cinderella, Prince Charming and the Wicked Step Sisters) all played by children.

I guess the story of The Little Glass Slipper needs no explaining.

Trivia Bit:
♦ This short was produced toward the tail end of Shirley Temple‘s reign as Hollywood’s #1 box office star and it’s reasonable to assume it was made to showcase young talent that Warner Brothers may have thought had a shot at replicating Temple’s success.

Additional Reading:
Cairn Movie Descriptions 1940 (Cairn Terrier Movies Site)
Cinderella Folk Tale (Wikipedia)

Movie Monday: The Sporting Venus 1925

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The Sporting Venus Image One
Image Credit: Mike Cline’s Then Playing Blog

Ninety-five years ago, today, the silent, black & white romance film The Sporting Venus was released by MGM. Directed by Marshall Neilan, story by Gerald Beaumont and screenplay by Thomas J. Geraghty, it was filmed at Cortachy Castle in Angus, Scotland and, MGM Studios. It starred Blanche Sweet (Neilan’s wife), Ronald Coleman, Lew Cody, Josephine Crowell and Edward Martindel. This was the first of two movies paring Sweet with Coleman.

Synopsis:

Lady Gwen, the last of the sporting Grayles, falls in love with Donald MacAllan, a bright young medical student far below her station. Gwen’s father, who opposes the match, introduces her to Prince Carlos, who wishes to marry her in order to pay off his creditors.

The Sporting Venus Image One
Photo Credit: imdb.com & amazon.com

Donald enlists during the World War and Carlos continues his courtship. When Donald returns from the fighting, Carlos tells him that he is engaged to Gwen and Donald, therefore, makes no attempt to see her. Gwen mistakes Donald’s seeming indifference for contempt and seeks to forget him by living riotously in several European capitals. Having exhausted her fortune, and ruined her health, Gwen returns to Scotland and goes to live in the same cottage where Donald used to study. She becomes ill and, in delirium, calls for Donald. Her old nurse goes to fetch him at the Grayle estate, which, having become wealthy, he has just bought. Donald rescues Gwen, who has wandered out in a storm, and nurses her back to health.

The Screen Review:

A Hollywood conception of Scotsmen who wear the kilt but, whose complexions betray nary a sign of the ruddy ruggedness due to Highland rain and wind, is to be seen at the Capitol this week in a picture called “The Sporting Venus” […]. [There] is a question [of] whether the Wallaces, the Bruces, the Watts and the McTavishes will smile with any satisfaction upon it. Not that they are intentionally maligned in this story but, that the men from the land of the heather are portrayed with studio-blanched complexions and, in one or two instances, wearing brocaded silk dressing gowns.

Ronald Coleman Image Two
Photo Credit: Ronald Coleman Gallery

Marshall Neilan, the director of this celluloid effusion, in his desire to depict Lady Grayle (Blanche Sweet) as a plucky person at the eleventh hour of a fast life, shows her ladyship smoking a cigarette before she breathes her last. Ronald Colman is undoubtedly a bonnie actor but, you just know that he never was born to wear a kilt, [though], he does for a few scenes. He impersonates Donald McAllen, frequently alluded to as a commoner.

Donald and the capricious lassie, Lady Gwendolyn, are happy in Scotland until the coming of Prince Carlos […]. This Prince, played by Lew Cody, is a man of many debts and a faithful valet. His creditors see only one way to get back their money and that is to have the oily gentleman marry a wealthy wife. Donald goes to France to fight, and when he returns on leave, [believes] the Prince’s story […] that [he], more or less, is to wed Lady Gwendolyn.

Lady Gwendolyn […] becomes […] a flighty young woman who gambles in millions. The young hero goes back to France, and as a surgeon, makes a great name for himself. He purchases Grayloch, the great estate of the Grayles.

With the background of Scotland, Mr. Neilan ought to have been able to make a production far stronger than this effort, which, at best, is only a mediocre diversion. It is true that it has some beautiful scenery and the settings are quite pleasing.

Mordaunt Hall
The New York Times
May 11, 1925

This film survived but, I can’t find any clips of it. Silent Era states that a premiere took place on May 10, 1925, at the Capitol Theatre in New York City and was released May 17, 1925. AFI disagrees. ~Vic

Sources:
The Sporting Venus (American Film Institute)
The Sporting Venus (IMDB)
Gentleman of the Cinema (Ronald Coleman Website)
The Screen (The New York Times)
The Sporting Venus (Wikipedia)

Flick Friday: The Girl In Number 29 1920

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The Girl In Number 29 Image One
Image Credit: Movie Poster Database
wikipedia.org & wikimedia.org

One-hundred years ago, today, the silent black & white drama film The Girl In Number 29 premiered (though not released, widely). Directed by John Ford and written by Philip D. Hurn, it was based upon the novel The Girl In The Mirror (1919) by Elizabeth Jordan. Starring Frank Mayo, Elinor Fair, Claire Anderson, Robert Bolder and Bull Montana, it is considered a lost film.

Frank Mayo & Claire Anderson Image Two
Frank Mayo & Claire Anderson
Image Credit: Motion Picture News
wikipedia.org & wikimedia.org

From AFI:

After turning out a successful drama, young playwright Laurie Devon settles down to a life of idleness. Alarmed and disgusted, his friends make every effort to get him to work again but, he refuses. One evening, while glancing into his mirror, Laurie sees a beautiful girl in the apartment across the way, holding a revolver to her head. Dashing out of his apartment house, he prevents her from pulling the trigger. He learns that her name is Doris Williams and discovers that her plight is caused by a man named Shaw. Soon after, Shaw and his thugs abduct her, and Laurie comes to her rescue, shooting her tormentor. Returning home, he confesses his crime to his sister and friends, and learns that the whole incident was a trick to restore his interest in life. The plot succeeds and Laurie writes another hit play in which his new wife Doris is the star.

From MPN:

Laurie Devon (Mayo) is a New York playwright who, having had one success, refuses to work on another play. One night he sees a woman (Anderson) in an apartment across the street take out a gun and place it to her forehead. He reaches her in time to save her and she tells him that she is under some terrible evil influence, which she will not disclose. Devon attempts to untangle the mystery and is led on an adventure. The woman is taken to a house on Long Island, where Devon, after a fight, rescues her. He takes out the revolver and shoots one of the pursuers, who falls to the ground. On returning home, he is heartbroken and tells his sister Barbara (Fair) and his friends that he is a murderer. His sister, and two of his friends, then confess that the whole thing was a frame-up. [T]hey had hired some actors to stage everything and that it was an attempt to get the ambitionless [sic] author to write again. The revolver used in the suicide attempt by the woman, and in the later shooting, had blanks. Devon and the woman from the apartment melt into each other’s arms at the final fade-out.

Elinor Fair & Harry Hilliard Image Three
Elinor Fair & Harry Hilliard
Image Credit: Exhibitors Herald
archive.org
wikipedia.org & wikimedia.org

Additional Reading & Sources
American Film Institute
IMDB
Web Archive
Wikipedia

Flick Friday: The Roman 1910

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The Roman 1910 Image One
Image Credit: imdb.com & amazon.com

One hundred, ten years ago, the silent, black & white short film The Roman was released. Directed by Francis Boggs and written by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, it starred Hobart Bosworth, Betty Harte, Robert Z. Leonard and Tom Santschi. It was filmed at the studios of the Selig Polyscope Company.

The Moving Picture World (January-June 1910 Archive):

Perhaps the most attractive feature of this picture is the reproduction of early Roman costumes and Roman surroundings. It is a story of political intrigue, with all the contests and disagreeable features, connected therewith in the ancient city. But, the reproduction of manners and customs and, the historically correct scenery and settings, add immensely to the interest and, insure attention when, perhaps, the mere political story would scarcely be considered. The greatest service the motion picture can do is in the direction of educating the people, and a film like this, which faithfully illustrates long past and, perhaps, partially forgotten life, is of vast importance and, deserves a cordial reception. The Selig players have brought enthusiasm to their work and, have put much ability and life into the interpretation of this play.

American Film Institute (AFI) History:

This film may have been based on the 1835 novel Rienzi, the Last of the Tribunes, by Edward Bulgar-Lytton [sic]. An advertisement in the [February] 19, 1910, Film Index billed Bosworth above the title, “Hobart Bosworth in The Roman,” and labeled the movie “Film De Art of the Classics,” declaring: “Its teachings are based upon the scriptures and traditions of the early history of the eternal city.” The advertisement also suggested that theater owners book The Roman as a “Special Lenten Picture.”

A young woman [orders] her girl slave to deposit in the waters of the Tiber a child which she has cause to be rid of. The infant is found by one of the aristocracy and adopted. In later years she is betrothed but, just before the wedding, the ruler of the land claims the young woman, on the ground that she was born in slavery. By military force, she is torn from the arms of her foster father and taken to the ruling house where she is held captive for only a few hours, as the father and young lover, have aroused a popular rebellion which overthrows the ruler, end[ing] in his death and the defeat of his defenders. (Variety February 19, 1910)

One Trivia Bit:
♦ Per [Hobart] Bosworth, first picture made at Selig’s (Studio at 1845 Allesandro Street, now Glendale Blvd.) in the Edendale (now Silver Lake) plant of Los Angeles.

[There was not much written about this film and no video clip(s). The image, above, doesn’t seem to jive with the TCM synopsis. But, that is all I could find.

Addendum: I continued to dig and found the, above, write-ups via the Internet Archive database and AFI. Turner Classic Movies synopsis was WAY off. ~Vic]

Movie Monday: Being Respectable 1924

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Being Respectable Image One
Lobby Card
Image Credits: wikipedia.org & Warner Brothers

Ninety-five years ago, today, the silent drama Being Respectable was released. Based on the novel of the same name written by Grace Flandrau, it was adapted by Dorothy Farnum. Directed by Phil Rosen, it starred Marie Prevost, Monte Blue, Louise Fazenda, Irene Rich, Theodore von Eltz, Frank Currier, Eulalie Jensen, Lila Leslie, Sidney Bracey and Charles French.

Being Respectable Image Two
Photo Credit: imdb.com

Synopses:

Wealthy young Charles Carpenter is pressured by his family to marry Suzanne, even though he is really in love with young “flapper” Valerie. He gives in to his family’s pressure, however and marries Suzanne, after which Valerie leaves town. Years later, after Charles and Suzanne have had a child, Valerie comes back to town and, Charles realizes he is still in love with her…and she with him. Complications ensue. [Source]

Through the scheming of his respectable, and wealthy family, Charles Carpenter is obliged to marry Suzanne, although he is in love with young flapper Valerie Winship. Years later, when Valerie is back in town, they renew the affair and, Carpenter plans to leave his wife and child for her. […] in the end, he yields to family duty and respectability. [Source]

New York Times Review [August 4, 1924]

I could not find any video clips of this movie. ~Vic

Movie Monday: Design For Living 1934

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Design For Living Photo
Photo Credit: criterion.com

Eighty-five years ago, today, the #1 film at the box office was the menage a trois comedy Design For Living. Released on December 29, 1933, it starred Fredric March, Gary Cooper and Miriam Hopkins. It was based, loosely on a play written by Noël Coward in 1932. It was very risqué for its time and, was a pre-code movie produced and released before strict enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code, the censorship guidelines demanded by American Roman Catholics. Interestingly, the critical response to the film was more about its gutting of the original material than of its questionable morality.

IMDB Summary:

Two Americans sharing a flat in Paris, playwright Tom Chambers and painter George Curtis, fall for free-spirited Gilda Farrell. When she can’t make up her mind which one of them she prefers, she proposes a “gentleman’s agreement”: She will move in with them as a friend and critic of their work but, they will never have sex. When Tom goes to London to supervise a production of one of his plays, leaving Gilda alone with George, how long will their gentleman’s agreement last?

Trivia Bits:
♦ Gary Cooper spoke fluent French and was able to use it for the first time in this film.
♦ Lubitsch [then] asked Douglas Fairbanks Jr. to play George, and he accepted but, he contracted pneumonia just before filming was to start and he was replaced by Gary Cooper.
♦ Writer Ben Hecht and producer-director Ernst Lubitsch retained only one line from the original play by Noël Coward: “For the good of our immortal souls!”
♦ Considerable censorship difficulties arose because of sexual discussions and innuendos, although the Hays Office eventually approved the film for release. However, it was banned by the Legion of Decency and was refused a certificate by the PCA for re-release in 1934, when the production code was more rigorously enforced.

Nominations:
American Film Institute (AFI) 100 Years…100 Passions
American Film Institute (AFI) 10 Top 10: Romantic Comedy